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The Torturous Location

Low budget films have to cut out everything but the necessities. So any basic comforts for the actors are out. There is no space, no privacy, sometimes no air. After a long day of filming, I often feel like I have a hangover from being in stifling spaces for long hours. Or freezing ones.

I worked on a film that rented a house for a location. The owners left for the day and figured they’d save money, so they turned the heat down to like 40 or something when they left. It was a frigid winter day in the flat barrens of Long Island. When the actors weren’t filming we were huddled together on a leather sectional under a pile of everyone’s coats.

The director seemed oblivious, as he was probably high on hormones or something. He was in the midst of transitioning from a man to a woman. Everyone had a different pronoun for him/her. I was careful when talking about the director to only use his NAME, as I was afraid of making a pronoun faux pas. When exactly does a he become a she? No one seemed sure.

The owners of the house also left their dog. Were they nuts? Crews are all about their equipment and I doubt if they would have noticed if that dog had slipped out of the house while they were loading in and was never seen again. But Saint Cranky of the animals was there, and I took care of the dog all day. We had nice little walks in the neighborhood together. And the dog was a great belly warmer among the coats.

It was a challenge slipping out from under the pile of coats to go do a scene. From a frozen fetal position to drama in minutes.

Greta Garbo once said, “I WANT TO BE ALONE.” I’m with you sister. I have always found like total utter joy in being absolutely quietly ALONE. Even as a kid, I remember reading books in the living room when no one was home and it slowly slowly got dark outside. I felt utterly content. So being crammed in a room with a bunch of people is not my idea of a good time. But when there are no trailers, no money, this is what happens.   You are all stuck in the one room they are not filming in at that time.

One film I worked on took place in a one-bedroom apartment. So at certain points, there were eight of us in the tiny bedroom together. AND the makeup artist and her table.   I ended up lying on the bed next to a really fun Palestinian actor staring at the ceiling and talking. He made it bearable. He had taught me the Arabic I needed to speak in the film. He was funny. He went on to do a lot of film and episodic television, including the program “24”, a must for any actor who can play a terrorist. He was proof that all struggling actors are really one job away from fame. I saw him in an absolutely terrible show at The Producer’s Club and the next thing I knew he was starring in a film.

For some reason, the director cast me as Middle Eastern. I even had a stone in my forehead. I pretty much look Irish, but she was Japanese, and maybe we all look the same to her. It was a job. I’m not gonna argue. As a side note, everyone was impressed that her Dad was a Zen monk. I was too until I thought about it and realized that in the West it is the equivalent of having your Dad drop out of society and become a fisherman.

Another torturous location is the outdoor shoot. The first time I worked outdoors, I was costarring with a little kid. His Dad showed up with two beach chairs. I thought that was peculiar, until six hours later when we were still there and I was trying to rest by leaning on a stonewall. Smart Dad.

I know none of this sounds hard. But everything in film TAKES FOREVER. So being huddled on a coach for an hour isn’t bad. But being there from 9am until 1am is a different story.

A great actor once said, “ I get paid to wait. The acting I do for free.

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